From Non-Factor to X-Factor: Bruins Third Line Coming Up Huge In Playoffs

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(Photo Courtesy of John Tlumacki / Boston Globe Staff)

By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

The Boston Bruins find themselves in the middle of a long playoff run, and while there are many different factors that have led to this, one of the biggest x-factors that fueled this run is the play of the third line, and the players that make up that third-line. Going into the season, if someone told you the Bruins would make it at least to the Eastern Conference Final, and that third-line was going to be a big part of that, you would probably think that person was nuts, but here we are. Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and Danton Heinen have played great hockey over the last few weeks, and they’ve really shown that they can hold the secondary scoring mantle. Secondary scoring was also a big problem for the boys in black and gold with many local and national media personalities telling us that while the first-line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak is elite, the team needed more balance on all lines.

With that balance needed, and the younger internal options never fully emerging the Bruins turned to the trade market to fortify the third-line. The guy that Boston turned to was Charlie Coyle. They traded Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Coyle. Then a few days later, the Bs traded a second and fourth-round pick to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Marcus Johansson. Now, Coyle looked strong, and the Bruins seemed to finally solve the third-line center position, but Johansson was initially tried out on the second-line. Then only a few games into his tenure with the spoked B he took a hard hit from Carolina Hurricanes’ winger Micheal Ferland, which bruised the New Jersey Devils’ lung. As a result, we never were able to fully see what Boston’s new additions could do.

Even after Johansson came back from injury, he still needed time to fully show what he could do. Heading into the playoffs, Charlie Coyle had fully stabilized the third-line center position, and Johansson was still working to find his niche on the team. Even after game one of the first round of the playoffs against Toronto, the Bruins sat the Sweden native for games two and three. Since then, however, both Coyle and Johansson have been a force to be reckoned with these playoffs. Conor Ryan of the Boston Sports Journal even pointed out that Johansson and Coyle combined in the playoffs have netted nine goals and dished out 12 assists for 21 total points, and they’ve generated 25 individual high-danger scoring chances. Individually, Charlie Coyle has netted six goals while dishing out six assists for 12 total points, Marcus Johansson has netted three goals while dishing out six assists for nine total points, and the final member of the third-line Danton Heinen has netted two goals while dishing out five assists for seven total points.

To top all of that off, over the past five games that they’ve played together the three players have netted a combined four goals while dishing out a combined nine assists for 13 total points. To take it a step further, the 13 points in five games accounts for 21% of the points scored in those games. All five of those games have resulted in a Bruins victory.  Not only are these guys scoring, but they are also driving play when they are the ice which is one of the most important things, especially in the playoffs. A lot of fans were critical of Don Sweeney at the trade deadline stating that the trades getting Coyle and Johansson would not be enough to get past Tampa Bay and win a Stanley Cup. Luckily for Boston, Columbus took care of Tampa Bay for them, and their acquisitions are playing a large part in the Bruins being two wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The Boston Bruins third-line has gone from a non-factor to an x-factor this long playoff run. They’ve become such a big strength that you have to consider re-signing Marcus Johansson in the off-season if the price is right. It seems like whenever he has the puck, he has a chance of making a big play. The play of the third line has been an absolute joy to watch, and Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have become some of my favorite players to watch these playoffs. If Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Marcus Johansson can keep up their high level of play, then the Bruins’ chances of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June are very good.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of this playoff run. Feel free to leave questions or comments on my Twitter and Go, Bs, Go!

What The Bruins Need To Do To Get Back In This Series

Columbus Blue Jackets' Matt Duchene, top right, scores a goal against Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask, of Finland, during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in Nationwide Arena.

(JAY LAPRETE / AP)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

The Bruins have done a lot of what needs to be done to win a series. They’ve gotten really good goaltending from Tuukka Rask, they’ve gotten a lot of really important depth goals out of their bottom six, and overall, they’ve played pretty damn good defense. But clearly, they aren’t playing perfect hockey as they’re down 2-1 in the series. Here are a few important things the Bruins will need to do to come back in this series against Columbus.

Figure Out Bobrovsky

Captain obvious here but the Bruins need to find a way to get a couple past the Blue Jackets’ goalie. Sergei Bobrovsky has been incredible this entire playoff run, but his playoff struggles of the past can’t be forgotten. Even with his outstanding numbers this season (.937 save percentage and a 1.88 GAA) he has a measly .902 save % and a 3.08 GAA. If the Bruins can put up four or five on him in a game, then the nerves may start to kick in, and Bobrovsky could start to falter.

 

Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, right, of the Czech Republic, controls the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno during an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The Bruins won 6-2. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

(AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Fix the Powerplay

To say it has been bad would be an understatement. The Bruins are just 1/10 on the PP this series, and it seems that every time they get on the man advantage, it just kills their momentum. The first powerplay unit HAS to change. I think Marcus Johansson is incredible at gaining the zone which is very important to a powerplay, but he just isn’t the right guy to be in front of the net. I would rather see him on the second unit either in the bumper position (where Bergeron plays) or on the right side half-wall (where Marchand plays).

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It seems Jake Debrusk will move back up to the number one unit and take Johansson’s place, but I think a guy like David Backes, who looks to be entering the lineup next game, would be the best fit there. While age has been getting the better of him as of late, he still has a nose for the net and sees the puck really well. He’s got very good hand-eye coordination and could really be a nuisance for Bobrovsky and the Columbus defense to handle in front of the net.

 

Adam Glanzman / Getty Images

Have the First Line do… Something

Yikes. The trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak have one point this entire series, and that one point was a goal off of Pastrnak’s skate. The worst of the bunch has been the goal scorer Pastrnak. Maybe he’s playing through an injury, but everything, his skating, his shooting, his decision making, all of it has been off. Coach Cassidy tried to jump-start the struggling Pastrnak by putting him on the third line with the best two Bruins this series, Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, and it just ruined what the two had going before Game Three. Towards the tail-end of Game Three, the Czechman was reunited with his former linemates and had a few solid shifts to end off the game. Hopefully, that is a sign of things to come.

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Brad Marchand should try to stick to scoring goals and not his old devilish ways, or we might not see Marchy too much more this series. Patrice Bergeron hasn’t been bad. He’s had a lot of quality scoring chances and has done a good job neutralizing the Blue Jacket’s top line, but just like the rest of his linemates, he just looks off. Bruce Cassidy will stick with his guns and keep the “perfection” line together going into Game Four, hopefully, this major slump can only last so long

Stop Giving the Puck Away

Plain and simple, way too many costly turnovers.

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: EQSF Game 1: Columbus at Boston

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

After eliminating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, the Boston Bruins are right back in action after a short, one-day break to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in Round Two of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blue Jackets are coming off of a four-game sweep of the President’s Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in their first-round matchup.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (4-3)

Away: Columbus Blue Jackets (4-0)

Last Game Result: Bruins won 5-1 in Game 7

Bruins Gameday Lineup:

Defenceman John Moore is out of the lineup for tonight’s Game One with an upper-body injury and is considered to be day-to-day with the injury. Connor Clifton will enter the lineup in replace of Moore. In addition, forward Chris Wagner will come back into the forward core and Karson Kuhlman will be the scratch. Tuukka Rask is the starting goaltender for Boston.

First Period:

Less than a minute into round two and the Boston Bruins are bringing back the physical style of hockey that we saw in Game Two against the Maple Leafs. The fourth line of Boston, as well as Torey Krug, had some huge hits on the Blue Jackets early on and that could be a big storyline throughout this series.

About four minutes into the game, the intensity level rises just a bit. Blue Jackets d-man Scott Harrington sticks the knee out on Sean Kuraly as Kuraly enters the zone, getting called on a two-minute tripping minor in the process. Right after, Nordstrom gets into a scuffle with some opposing players, showing what kind of series this will be.

The Bruins thrive on the early power-play with some great chances, headlined by a highway robbery by Sergei Bobrovsky – a split save on a bouncing puck right in front of the net and it stays scoreless. With 43 seconds left, Boston gets caught with six players on the ice and the power-play becomes  4-on-4 play for too-many-men. Bobrovsky makes another huge stop on Charlie McAvoy as well. Fortunately, Columbus fails to get a shot on the man-advantage and we go back to 5-on-5.

The B’s forecheck has been great in the early portions of this game, but Charlie Coyle goes a bit too far, getting called on a hooking minor about halfway through the first period. Columbus has a chance on a full power-play session for the first time this series. Boston’s PK did a great job shutting down offensive chances in the neutral zone and the Blue Jackets cannot get anything going.

Continuing a great penalty-kill, Noel Acciari stands up strong on the blueline, picking up the puck off of a McAvoy poke check, turning around and heading on a 2-on-1 with Nordstrom. Instead of passing, Acciari rips one shorthanded underneath Bobrovsky’s blocker to put the Bruins up 1-0.

Brad Marchand makes a slick move to get around the defender, takes a shot that gets stopped by Bobrovsky, but the Bruins stay hard on the puck. At the other end, Cam Atkinson steals the puck off of Zdeno Chara in the Bruins defensive zone, then passes it to Ryan Dzingel in the slot. Tuukka Rask makes only his second save of the game with three minutes to go in the period on a solid chance.

Columbus closed out the first period with the best zone control they had all game, quite honestly the only time they had such pressure in the offensive zone, but the Bruins deal with the chances and not many shots end up reaching Rask. With that, Boston ends the period with a 1-0 lead. Columbus ties a franchise record for fewest shots on goal in the first period of a playoff game with four.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 14 CBJ: 4

Score: 1-0 Bruins – Goals: Acciari (1) SH Assists: McAvoy (3)

Second Period:

Just shy of three minutes into a slower-paced second period, former-Bruin Riley Nash trips up Matt Grzelcyk and Boston once again goes to the power-play. Early on, Columbus shows great improvement on the penalty-kill, but a small cycle play causes a Pastrnak one-timer that shatters his stick. The puck somehow gets to Marchand who has an open net but rings it off the crossbar and it goes up out of play. Blue Jackets kill off the penalty on Nash.

Not long after Nash leaves the box, David Krejci gets his stick on the skates of Nick Foligno at the end of his shift and the officials wave him to the penalty box. Columbus heads to the power-play for the third time already. Tuukka Rask has to make a couple solid saves – which he does so and Boston successfully makes their third kill of the night.

Midway through the game, the Blue Jackets have clearly found their game that was absent in the first frame. Already more shots in the second period than the opening period for Columbus and they have begun to start the cycle on a couple occasions. Boston forced to ice it a few times in the process.

With 5:30 remaining in the frame, Patrice Bergeron is called on a hooking call when he makes a play to shut down a David Savard chance on Rask. Yet again, Bruins off to the 5-on-4 penalty-kill tonight. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson has a wide open net on a rebound but the bouncing puck goes over the blade of his stick and no shot comes off. Marchand gets a contested breakaway shorthanded but with the good defence by Bjorkstrand, he is unable to get the shot off. The chance is enough to kill off the penalty, though.

Brad Marchand, who has been all over the puck since hitting the crossbar, gets the puck on a short 2-on-1 with Pastrnak. Pastrnak gets interfered with by Zach Werenski and with around one minute left in the second, Boston goes to the power-play. Off of a terrific diving play to keep the puck in by Torey Krug, Bruins get numerous high-quality chances, but the period ends before a goal goes in. B’s will have 48 seconds on the power-play to start the third.

Columbus out-shot the Bruins 10-to-6 in that middle frame and Boston has allowed them to get their legs in this game. Boston needs a goal early in the final regulation period to give them the momentum back in this Game One contest. It should be an entertaining upcoming twenty minutes of action.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 20 CBJ: 14

Score: 1-0 Bruins

Third Period:

Unable to strike on the short power-play to begin the period, the Bruins get a full one 1:20 into the third on a holding minor against Boone Jenner. Just seconds beforehand, Jenner took a shot on the rush that hit Rask’s glove and then the post but stayed out. Marchand again gets the best chance on the power-play, a deflection on a slap pass from Pastrnak that just goes wide. Blue Jackets block a few hard shots including one off of Zach Werenski’s hand. He has been the top minute-eating defenceman for Columbus and losing him would hurt. Boston, though, can’t score again on the man-advantage.

In a game that felt like a regular season game at times results in a Seth Jones point shot that gets deflected by former-Bruin Riley Nash and Brandon Dubinsky, tying the game at one. Only thirteen seconds after that, Artemi Panarin takes a hard slapshot towards Rask and it hits Pierre-Luc Dubois’ leg, beating Rask. All of a sudden, the Blue Jackets have a 2-1 lead in the third.

Looking for a response, Joakim Nordstrom takes a spinning shot and somehow Sean Kuraly gets his stick on a loose puck but his attempt gets stopped by with a desperation save by Bobrovsky. Boston’s fourth line continues to have the best chances for the team and that usually does not win you consistent playoff games.

A slower period than expected, Marcus Johansson comes down the right-wing side with head up all the way and he makes a slick backhand pass to Charlie Coyle and his bomb of a one-timer goes in and out so fast that it almost seemed like a post shot, but Coyle and the official behind the net saw that it went in short-side and the Boston Bruins have tied this game with just under five minutes in regulation.

In the final minutes, Charlie McAvoy gets absolutely levelled behind Tuukka Rask by Josh Anderson. McAvoy returned the favour to Boone Jenner later in the shift as Jenner tried to cross the Bruins blueline. High intensity in the concluding moments with some hard pushes by Boston but we head to overtime for the first time in the playoffs for the Bruins.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 33 CBJ: 21

Score: 2-2 – Goals: Dubinsky (1) Assists: Nash (1), Jones (3); Dubois (2) Assists: Panarin (4), Jones (4); Coyle (4) Assists: Johansson (1), Krug (4)

Overtime:

In the first few minutes of the overtime session, it is apparent that David Krejci is not on the bench nor the ice for the Bruins. Talks are that Krejci took a hard hit at the end of the third period, but no clear play of injury is present.

Leave it up to the third line. Marcus Johansson tosses the puck high up for Danton Heinen who just barely gets into the zone onside. Zach Werenski pauses to protest for a possible offside, which allows Charlie Coyle to get around him. In the meantime, Johansson feeds a perfect pass to Coyle for a deflection goal. Bruins win Game One, 3-2 in overtime.

Shots on Goal: BOS: 37 CBJ: 22

Final Score: 3-2 Bruins

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS F Charlie Coyle – 2 Goals, OT Winner, 2 Shots, 3 Hits,

2nd Star: CBJ G Sergei Bobrovsky – 34 Saves, .919 SV%

3rd Star: BOS F Marcus Johansson – 2 Assists, 2 Shots, 16:20 TOI

Game Two is currently scheduled for 8:00pm EST on Saturday, April 27th in Boston, Massachusetts.

Why The Bruins Prevailed In A Grueling First Round Against The Maple Leafs

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(Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

When a Boston-Toronto matchup comes to fruition in the playoffs, it is sure to be a battle — the last two, and now three playoff matchups between the two teams are indicative of that. For the third time in the past six seasons, the Bruins came out victorious in seven games over the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t a squeaky clean series from the Bruins, but they found a way to get it done in the end. Sure, the reasons I state aren’t the only reasons the Bruins prevailed, but they are important ones.

Deadline additions come in clutch

The acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson were orchestrated by Don Sweeney at deadline time. Coyle didn’t light up the score sheet as a Bruin post-trade deadline, but really helped a third line that saw ebbs and flows throughout the season.

Coyle broke out in the first round, big time. With three goals and an assist, his four points were good for fifth on the team in scoring. The stability of his presence on the third line never faded, and his ability to score and push the pace in all three zones really came through and was paramount in the team’s success. His empty netter last night sealed the deal on the series, but his lone assist of the series in the team’s game four wins was a huge one. Coyle’s importance can’t be overstated.

Despite only playing in five of the seven games, Marcus Johansson made an impact as well. Overall, he had a solid series, but he really came through last night with a huge goal to give the Bruins a two-goal lead. Not to mention a big blocked shot late in the second period of an eventual game four win — the Bruins were up by two goals at the time.

The fourth line came up big when it mattered most

Overall this season, the fourth line has seen its share of ebbs and flows, like the third line. They really got a boost when known buzzsaw Sean Kuraly returned from injury in game five. At times, the fourth line looked pretty rough, but they saw a resurgence when Kuraly’s presence and high-energy style was at its peak.

The bottom line’s most notable performance, with Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Acciari making up the line, came in game seven. In combining for two goals and three assists in the game, the fourth line pushed the pace and put the Bruins over the top to win when it all came down to it. Big-time players make big-time plays.

Tuukka Rask, plain and simple

Tuukka Rask was phenomenal in the first round, and has been for much of the season as a whole. He wasn’t perfect, but he made crucial saves when they were needed most in the end. After the game last night, Rask hinted at being his changed workload in the regular season helping, and he sure gave us a glimpse. Credit can certainly be given to the Bruins’ coaching staff and Jaroslav Halak for this, additionally. Rask finished this series with a 4-3 record, 2.31 GAA, and a .928 save percentage. Here’s arguably the best save he made, if you somehow haven’t seen it already.

Brandon Carlo was consistently excellent

A first playoff rodeo didn’t intimidate Brandon Carlo. Injuries in year’s past robbed him at a chance to show what he could do in the playoffs — this year, he got his shot.

In doing so, Carlo gave anyone watching a real glimpse of how much of a legitimate shutdown defenseman and leader he can be. Everything viewers could have expected and then some. He was the team’s best defenseman and got the recognition he deserved from media. Have a gander at this short thread for some more perspective, in a game six sample size.

Resilience shined through

Individual performances obviously shined through, but so did the resilience of this Bruins team as a whole. They had their backs against the wall after a game five loss with a game six in a hostile Toronto environment on the docket. They battled to win an extremely stressful game six, get back to home ice, and clinch the series on home ice.

Game six saw the Bruins down a goal in the first thanks to Morgan Reilly, but they battled back to eventually win 4-2. Scoring the first goal can often be crippling, especially in a must-win game — not this time.

Speaking of scoring the first goal, Nordstrom helped in that regard last night and the Bruins didn’t fall behind once, despite a dominant second period from Toronto. That resilience that was so huge in their success was huge in the end.

Also, I feel obligated to mention the fact that the camaraderie between Boston sports teams is something special. Most recently with Julian Edelman going crazy at the Garden last night, we also saw members of the Boston Celtics, coach Brad Stevens, and prominent Patriots players like Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady, and James White, amongst others showing their support. All of this that we have seen recently, as well as over the years is too cool not to mention, and the players do appreciate it.

As I said, the importance of the Bruins’ stars and other players who didn’t get a mention in this discussion, obviously contributed to the team’s success as well. The lack of a mention isn’t meant to discredit them. But, these were the factors that stuck out to me the most. It was an epic series, and now the Bruins are on to Columbus.

Coyle Proving The Doubters Wrong In Bruins Postseason

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( Photo Credit: The Athletic )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter:  @yanlatz

The Bruins received a major piece to their forward lineup ahead of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Charlie Coyle. The centerman, who played 47 playoff games for the Wild brings playoff experience and depth to Cassidy’s forward group. Many fans and media had questioned his effectiveness and fit in a Bruins uniform but, in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Toronto, he has raised some eyebrows.

The Weymouth, MA native was shipped up to Boston on February 20, 2019, in a trade that sent Ryan Donato and a fifth-round draft pick to the Minnesota Wild. Bruins fans and media were split in their reactions to the trade by Don Sweeney and did not know how well he would contribute to the Bruins offensive depth. In 21 games with his favorite childhood team, he put up two goals and 4 assists for six points along with a plus/minus rating of minus two.

Throughout the last few weeks of the regular season, Cassidy tried Coyle up and down the lineup on the center and the wing and was not able to really find a firm position in the lineup. In the playoffs, Cassidy started Coyle on the third line with Marcus Johansson and Danton Heinen on the wings in game one.

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After a disappointing loss in game one, Bruce Cassidy was looking to add more grit and intensity to the Bruins lineup. With Johansson out with an illness, David Backes drew back into the lineup and was slotted on the right wing of the Heinen and Coyle line. That line started off the game with intense hits and forechecking and began to go after the Leafs which the Bruins did not do much of in game one. At just about the five-minute mark of the first, David Backes finished a great forecheck behind the Toronto goal and knocked the puck loose and sent a pass in front to Coyle who buried his first of the playoffs and got the Bruins the much needed first goal of the game. Coyle logged 15:16 time on ice with a plus-two rating and had a strong performance.

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Similarly, on Monday night in game three North of the border, the Bruins found themselves in a 3-1 hole late in the second period. As the Bruins went on the powerplay, Coyle parked himself in front, and after a scramble from a Grzelcyk shot and a rebound from Heinen, Coyle rifled a shot past Andersen and got a huge goal for the Bruins heading into the dressing room. Along with that big goal, Coyle logged 17:17 time on ice and was named the games third star.

Coyle and Heinen have found great chemistry in this first-round series against Toronto. Charlie Coyle has arguably been the Bruins best player in this series which is both good and bad. Although consistency and scoring from Coyle on the third line are key for the Bruins, the team also needs its top two lines to get going and tie the series up in game 4 in Toronto. (Wednesday, April 17 7:00pm Scotiabank Arena on NBCSN and NESN)

Coyle’s size, strength, and skill fit right into the Bruins lineup, and it seems as though he has found his spot and confidence in a Bruins uniform. His chemistry with Heinen is developing before our eyes, and the veteran centerman has stepped up on the biggest stage for the Black and Gold. It is essential for the third line depth to contribute for Bruce Cassidy’s Bruins in this series against Toronto. With the matchup game for both coaches imminent in this series, Boston and Toronto’s top two lines are battling for every inch of ice which increases the need for bottom six contribution for both teams and especially Boston.

Charlie Coyle is beginning to prove his worth to fans and media with his strong play of late, but it needs to continue in order for the Bruins to take this best of seven series from the rivals in Toronto. However, although it is a great sign that Coyle is beginning to find his game with Boston, the Bruins are seeking contributions from the other top players on the team in their effort to get back into this series.

Boston Bruins Playoff Preview: Round 1 – Game 3

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

After a pair of games in Boston, the first-round matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs officially makes its way to Toronto, Canada for Game Three. The Bruins tied the series on Saturday with a 4-1 victory after losing Game One by the same score on Thursday.

Game Three Information:

Arena: Scotiabank Arena – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Home: Toronto Maple Leafs

Away: Boston Bruins

Series: 1-1

Starting Goaltenders:

BOS: Tuukka Rask 1-1-0 .937 SV% 2.02 GAA Last Game: 30 Saves in 4-1 win vs TOR

TOR: Frederik Andersen 1-1-0 .937 SV% 2.50 GAA Last Game: 37 Saves in 4-1 loss vs TOR

Projected Bruins Lineup:

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

Heinen – Coyle – Backes

Nordstrom – Acciari – Wagner

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Kampfer

Per reports from Head Coach Bruce Cassidy, forward Jake DeBrusk and defenceman Torey Krug will be in the lineup for Game Three. DeBrusk took a cross-check to the head by Nazem Kadri, who is facing an in-person hearing today and left the game while Krug left Game Two after taking a massive hit from Jake Muzzin. Connor Clifton (upper-body) is out, Kampfer to replace him and Marcus Johansson remains out with an illness.

Who’s Hot

Charlie Coyle scored the game’s first goal on Saturday, ultimately giving the Bruins the confidence to continue out the game, but his play has been consistent throughout the series so far. Even in the loss in Game One, Coyle had numerous chances and opportunities to score but just could not bury one and he continued that in the second game. With the loss of Leafs’ third line centre, Nazem Kadri, Coyle’s role could be all the more important.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

Frederik Andersen may have allowed four goals on Saturday night, but he was one of the only good things that came from Toronto in their Game Two loss. Andersen stopped 37 of the 41 shots Boston threw at him, making some big saves throughout the entire game in order to keep it within reach for the Maple Leafs. If Andersen can continue to be hot in the net at home in the Scotiabank Arena, then the Leafs could have the momentum moving forward.

Jake DeBrusk does not have a point in either of the two games, but his usual work-horse attitude and play were present in both games, but especially in Game Two. DeBrusk managed to get under the skin of Kadri, resulting in the terrible cross-check by the Leafs forward. Jake had four hits on the night and was a beast on the forecheck, as he often is during gametime. It is only a matter of time for when that first goal comes.

Mitch Marner was held to zero points in Game Two, but in Game One, it was all him, scoring a pair of goals including a short-handed penalty shot past Tuukka Rask. Marner played 20:28 on Saturday night with over six minutes of speciality team time as well. Mitch could arguably be the biggest threat for the Bruins defence for the entirety of the series.

Who’s Not

William Nylander has had a rough 2018-19 season in general, with all the contract issues and then the lack of production once he started to play again, but that was only amplified on Saturday night in Boston, as he found himself on the wrong end of too many negative plays, including a terrible mishap that led to Heinen’s 3-0 goal for the B’s. The young forward also had a team-high three giveaways during his 13:56 TOI. Nylander was skating down the middle on the Leafs’ third line, replacing Kadri.

For all of the players that were struggling on the Bruins after the first game, did much better for the second. Every single player on the Bruins roster played their part and did their job to ultimately get the win and tie the series at one apiece. Boston will look to continue that ideology moving forward into Game Three.

Jake Muzzin had a terrible night on the Leafs blue line and only had one good play – a huge hit that injured Torey Krug. Other than that, Muzzin turned the puck over twice (on the statsheet), and made a crucial error that led to Marchand’s first-period tally. When Torey Krug lofted a puck up the ice, Muzzin tried to grab it with his hand, missing, leading to a 2-on-1 for Pastrnak and Marchand, leading to one of the best goals so far in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Muzzin is supposed to be the best defenceman on the roster for Toronto and he needs to be better.

Bruins vs Leafs – Game Three Outlook

The script was flipped on Saturday when the Bruins came back from a dismal Game One to dominate for a 4-1 final score. A change from Game One, the Bruins were aggressive on the forecheck and made a successful hit on every Leafs player that moved at any place on the ice. Even players like David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk were throwing the body.

The physical play of Boston kept the Leafs weary and afraid to push into the zone further, as a lot of their shots on goal came from the point and far along the boards. Their only goal came off of a deflection from one of these point shots and that strategy could be evident in Game Three.

Boston’s shots came right around the net of Frederik Andersen, mainly due to the turnovers on breakout passes by the Maple Leafs defenseman. One of the best chances that did not cross the red line came off of a turnover in the slot, leading to a David Krejci shot and a rebound from Heinen that was robbed by Andersen.

Regardless, the goaltenders of both teams will need to be on fire once again and the defence will need to prevent chances. No matter how far this series goes, that narrative will be the case for both franchises. Toronto will also have the home-ice for the first time this postseason, so expect an energetic Toronto crowd.

Game Three puck drop is scheduled for 7:00pm EST from the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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Playoff Grit Returns to Boston

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

By: Greg Aker | Follow me on Twitter: @akesNpains1

How do you beat Toronto? Hit them in the mouth, both literally and figuratively. The Boston Bruins did none of that in Game One of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. A disappointing 4-1 loss sent them to the locker room licking their wounds. In true Bruce Cassidy fashion, he was blunt and made it very clear that they were beaten in all aspects of the game. They were most definitely going to make changes. Changes they made.

From the drop of the puck, Game Two had a completely different feel than the first one of the series. Cassidy threw out his fourth line against Toronto’s finest right out of the gate. The game plan was clear: Let them know you are there.

A goal just 4:44 into the first period by Weymouth, MA native Charlie Coyle sent the TD Garden into an early frenzy. The entire roster had their skating legs going, and nobody finished a play without finishing a check (Boston registered 44 hits in Game Two versus 31 in Game 1). Scoring changes were heavily lopsided in Boston’s favor early and often. Usually, when the Bruins score first, especially on home ice, they win. During the regular season, the Bruins were 18-3-3 on home ice when scoring first. Additionally, the Bruins were 13-3-2 when tied after one period at home.

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Game One proved to be an anomaly. A nifty power play goal by Patrice Bergeron midway through the first period on Thursday night ended up being the Bruins’ only tally in what ended up a 4-1 loss. It was only the Bruins’ fourth loss over 25 home contests when scoring first. A penalty shot goal by Mitch Marner and a late breakaway goal by William Nylander in the 2nd period resulted in the Leafs taking a 3-1 lead into the dressing room after two periods of play in Game 1. Toronto has yet to lose (21-0-1) on the road when leading after two. We all know the end result from Thursday.

If one thing is known about the NHL playoffs, it is that no lead is safe. All one has to do is think back to a particular Game 7 in 2013, involving these same two teams. In Game Two, Boston never looked back. A beautiful finish by Brad Marchand on a slick behind-the-back pass from linemate David Pastrnak put the Bruins up 2-0 heading into the 2nd period. A Danton Heinen goal off of a Toronto miscue midway through the 2nd period resulted in a 3-goal lead by Boston. Toronto, as stated earlier, hasn’t lost on the road this year when leading after two periods. Inversely, they have never won on the road when down after two (0-12-3). Good starts matter in this series, for both teams.

Toronto’s lineup is littered with high-end talent and point production. With 10 players totaling over 30 points during the regular season, they have some of the best scoring depth in the entire league. Boston has the firepower of their own, but it was clear that the end-to-end pace of Game One favored the blue and white. Enter Bruce Cassidy.

I am one to think that Bruce doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being one heck of a hockey coach. The Jack Adams conversation rarely involves him. Names like Barry Trotz, Jon Cooper, and former Bruin Rick Tocchet dominate the headlines. Cassidy is lying in the weeds and getting excellent results. Over the stretch of 82+ games this year, he has had to constantly juggle the lineup due to injuries. Many felt that with aging veterans, the Bruins would see a down year compared to last. Instead, they finished second in the league in points only behind Tampa Bay and their record-setting season.

Adjustments are where Cassidy hangs his hat. The Bruins sustained losses in three straight games on only four occasions this year. Only twice did they go three straight games without earning a point. That defines consistency. Their top goal-scorer missed significant time with injury and Bruce helped orchestrate a run of 19-straight games of earning at least a point without him. The in-series adjustments have been fairly obvious thus far. Cassidy stated that his team needed to play more physical and with more emotion following the loss in Game 1.

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The return of David Backes into the lineup reflects this mindset. He knows they can’t sustain the up-tempo style that Mike Babcock wants to establish for 60 minutes each night. However, Cassidy will be the first to tell you that he wants his team to play fast too. The players answered the call. Puck battles were won all night on Saturday. Technical, responsible hockey was on display all while showing both speed and grit. There has to be established physical play for the Bruins to be successful and that is what we should see in the foreseeable future.

Game 3 will be telling in how this series looks to shift. The cat and mouse game has only just begun, but the playoff grit is back. Don’t blink.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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Bruins Post-Game Recap: ECQF Game 2: Toronto at Boston

maple-leafs-auston-matthews-reacts-to-goal-against-bruins.jpg

PHOTO CREDITS: (Sportsnet.ca)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

After losing the first game of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins are back in the TD Garden on Saturday night for Game Two of the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, down the series 1-0. On Thursday, Boston failed to generate good offensive opportunities and played poor on defence, allowing too many breakaways. Changes need to come in order to equalize this series.

Pre-Game Notes

Arena: TD Garden – Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Home: Boston Bruins (0-1)

Away: Toronto Maple Leafs (1-0)

Last Game Result: Maple Leafs won 4-1

Bruins Gameday Lineup

David Backes enters the lineup for the first time in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and forward Marcus Johansson is out with an illness. Jake DeBrusk is, in fact, in the lineup after being a game-time decision earlier today.

First Period:

The Bruins needed to come out with something to play for in the beginning stages of Game Two and they did exactly that. Only five minutes in the game, Boston is in full control. Hard aggressiveness on the dump-and-chase with some hard hits on anyone and everyone. As many other fans are saying on Twitter, the Bruins are playing the most physical hockey to begin any game in 2018-19. Great start to this big game.

Boston’s hard, physical play early paid off when David Backes found Charlie Coyle close in front of the net, burying it past Andersen to take a 1-0 lead early for Boston. Great forecheck by Backes to win the puck battle behind the Toronto net to find Coyle who shot before Andersen managed to locate the puck.

On the opposite side, the Leafs seemingly can’t get an early edge on the Bruins defence who is taking control on their individual man and shutting down the offence. The numbers just around halfway through the opening period were well in favour of Boston and the frustration level may have started to set in for Toronto.

Nazem Kadri and Jake DeBrusk got into a scuffle on the ice, resulting in offsetting 2-minute roughing minors. The intensity and tenacity of both Original Six rivals are growing by the second in this Game Two, making for a brilliant game thus far. On the 4-on-4, Auston Matthews drives hard around Rask, going for a wrap-around, but Rask keeps his pad tight to the post, keeping it out.

Surprisingly, David Krejci has been great at laying hits himself early on. On one rush by Gauthier, Krejci puts him to his back with a clean check along the boards. Not long after that, Travis Dermott holds DeBrusk on the boards, no holding penalty called, but DeBrusk answers the bell with some shoving back. Kadri in the middle of it again. DeBrusk is fiesty and aggressive tonight and it’s working so far.

With around four minutes left to trail in the first, Torey Krug fires a pass up the ice, a pass that is missed by Jake Muzzin, going right to David Pastrnak. Pastrnak makes a beautiful 180-pass to Brad Marchand who fakes the shot and buries it past a sprawling Frederik Andersen. That is how dangerous that duo and that line can be together. 2-0 Bruins.

Just as we approached the final minute of the period, David Pastrnak lays a hard, heavy hit on Jake Muzzin along the end boards, but the referees around the hit noticed it was a charge and Pastrnak is off to the box for two minutes. Toronto can’t build anything on the limited power-play and the energetic first period comes to a close there.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 14 TOR: 7

Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Coyle (1) Assists: Backes (1); Marchand (1) Assists: Pastrnak (1), Krug (2)

Second Period:

Right away, the Bruins keep the hard play on Toronto, forcing mistakes including a Muzzin turnover that nearly leads to a Pastrnak to Marchand goal. Each and every time that Toronto tries to enter the zone, they are shut down and when they do get off a shot, it misses the net or is easily stopped by Rask.

Later in the frame, the hits keep on coming. Just as Pastrnak puts John Tavares to the ice, Jake Muzzin demolished Torey Krug into the sideboards as Krug’s helmet flew off. Krug’s head appeared to hit the boards and he stayed on all fours for an extended amount of time before needing help up to the dressing room. Krug tried to get up on his own, but he stumbles – does not look good at all.

Immediately after the TV timeout, William Nylander makes an atrocious error around his own net, leaving the puck right for Danton Heinen to tap it past a clueless Andersen. Nylander taps Andersen on the pads as he skates by as that is all his fault. Bruins make it 3-0.

The frustration of the Maple Leafs comes out, even more, when Freddy Gauthier goes to the box for roughing as some more pushing and shoving happens after the whistle. On the first power-play of the night for Boston, the B’s get many high-quality scoring chances on an exhausted Leafs penalty-kill unit. Right as the PP ended, David Krejci picks off a puck in the slot, but Heinen’s rebound on his shot is robbed by Andersen – huge save to keep it a three-goal game.

With less than five minutes to go in the second, captain Zdeno Chara flips the puck up and over the glass, causing the dreaded delay-of-game penalty and Toronto heads to a man-advantage of their own. Toronto only gets 1:20 of actual power-play time before Kadri gets called on a hooking minor and it will be 4-on-4 for 40 seconds before heading to a Bruins power-play.

Nothing happened on either opportunity, but when Kadri exits the box, he briefly strips Krejci of the puck before getting rocketed into the air by Jake DeBrusk. It looks like contact was to Kadri’s knee and he remains down on the ice before heading to the locker room. This game is getting uglier by the minute. With that, the period concludes – one more period to play.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 29 TOR: 16

Score: 3-0 Bruins – Goals: Heinen (1) Unassisted

Third Period:

Not letting off the gas, the top line of the Boston Bruins look to extend the lead to four early in the third, with Brad Marchand getting the best chance on the side of Andersen, but the Leafs goaltender sees him and makes a solid glove save to keep it 3-0.

Five minutes in, Krejci gets involved with some hard pushing after Tuukka makes a save, but he goes a bit too far in the eyes of the refs and the Bruins are going to the penalty box for two minutes. On the penalty-kill, the Bruins made some good plays and cleared the puck effectively, killing it off entirely.

Toronto had the pressure in the third, showing the desperate attitude they need and with 9:16 remaining, they finally strike. Kadri, who is back after his knee incident, perfectly deflects a Dermott point shot to score and make it a 3-1 game.

Another Bruin defenceman, Connor Clifton, leaves the ice and heads to the room after taking a shot from Kadri. Boston can’t afford to lose too many players on the blueline with Kevan Miller and John Moore already out of the lineup.

Later on in the frame, Kadri makes a dirty play, cross-checking DeBrusk square in the head, dropping Jake to the ice. A very dirty play from Kadri and like most agree, will be suspended for this. In response, Kadri is handed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.

On the long power-play, Bergeron finds a rebound, firing the puck past the red line, making it a 4-1 Boston lead with over four minutes remaining on that man-advantage.

Frederik Andersen is still playing hard in this game, regardless of the score late in the third, as he robs David Krejci cold in front of the net with a sprawling glove save. The team around him is failing to help him out and you know Mike Babcock doesn’t like that from his squad. But, the Boston Bruins win Game Two, 4-1 the final score.

Shots On Goal: BOS: 41 TOR: 31

Score: 4-1 Bruins – Series Tied 1-1

Max’s Three Stars:

1st Star: BOS F Brad Marchand – 1 Goal, 1 Assist, 6 Shots, 20:00 TOI

2nd Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 30 Saves, .968 SV%

3rd Star: BOS F Charlie Coyle – 1 Goal, +2 Rating, 3 Shots, 16:00 TOI

Game Three is Monday in Toronto.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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Bruins Need to Right The Ship…Quickly

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( Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire/Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter: @CSthinks

Put plainly, the Boston Bruins did not do enough to win Game 1 of their matchup with Toronto on Thursday night. You can point to the shot total and fool yourself into thinking that they outplayed Toronto, but that’s exactly what you’d be doing…fooling yourself. The Maple Leafs finished the game with more scoring chances, more physicality, and yeah… more goals. To drop the first game of the series at home by three goals is about as disappointing to Bruins fans as it is to the team itself, but the manner in which the game was lost made it even worse. The Bruins, for the better part of the game, looked disinterested, unengaged, and soft.

Defensively

The Bruins surrendered far too many odd-man rushes. Amidst the myriad chances they allowed were a handful of breakaways, including a shorthanded breakaway, and subsequently a goal on a penalty shot. Boston’s neutral zone defense, which one might think would be a key point of emphasis against a team with Toronto’s speed and big-play potential, was absent. Stretch passes picked apart the defense. Gaps were poor. The speed of Toronto’s forwards wasn’t given the respect it deserved, and this became evident on several rushes.   While the Bruins’ play in their own zone was admittedly somewhat better, Toronto’s first goal was a result of a breakdown in defensive zone coverage. A tipped puck brought the attention of both Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy to the crease, leaving Mitch Marner with the entire slot to himself, and enough time and space to pump one past Rask. Chara and McAvoy did not look like a top defensive pairing last night against Toronto’s skilled forward units.

Defensive Fixes

It’s been said before, but Kevan Miller’s absence was notable last night. Aside from a big Connor Clifton hit in the first period, Toronto’s star forwards were able to navigate the ice sheet relatively undisturbed. For the Bruins to turn things around, this can’t continue. The Black and Gold defensive unit needs to inject a little grit into its game, and rough up the Toronto forwards at every opportunity. As good as the B’s skating on the back end is, they won’t outskate Toronto’s forwards. The fix to their Game 1 issues defensively will come in the form of smart gaps in the neutral zone and on transition, taking away time and space from Toronto in the Bruins’ own zone, and hammering them whenever the opportunity presents itself.

 

Soft hockey won’t win in the playoffs, regardless of how skilled a team is. Hopefully, last night’s game was enough of a wake-up call to the Bruins’ back end to light a fire under their collective back end.

Offensively

Too cute. Way too Cute. As easy as the Bruins’ first (and only) goal came in the first period, they looked as though they expected all of their goals to come as easy. Aside from Charlie Coyle, and David Krejci, very few Bruins forwards were driving offense and possession.

The Bruins had plenty of chances, and Frederik Andersen deserves a lot of credit for how well he played last night. But he didn’t steal the game from Boston. The Bruins simply didn’t put together enough sustained pressure to create the chances they needed to score on a good goalie. Anyone hoping for or expecting a recreation of the Bruins’ first-line dominance of last year’s series has a loose grip on reality.

Apart from the line of Charlie Coyle, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen, Boston’s attack was quieted by the Toronto defense and the subsequent sustained pressure of Toronto’s attack. Any time the Bruins started to roll and pick up some much-needed momentum, they gave up a big play that put Toronto right back in the driver seat.

Offensive Fixes

While the offense was not the reason why the Bruins surrendered an absurd amount of high-quality scoring chances, you can’t expect to beat a team like Toronto (or even a decent high-school team) by scoring just one goal. The aforementioned Coyle line drove much of the Bruins’ attack and accumulated a decent number of scoring chances, but was unable to bury the biscuit. The Bruins’ top two lines were essentially neutralized and unable to string together effective shifts. This can be attributed to the fact that these lines were relying too much on trying to make skill plays. The Bruins’ forwards are high-skill players, but playoff hockey is hard-nosed, fast-paced, and requires a willingness to keep things simple and get to the “dirty” areas (cliché much?) to win games.

While it wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce Cassidy tweaked his line combinations to move some players away from matchups that hurt them last night, I do think the Bruins can win without that response. A commitment to shots on goal and sustained pressure—things that the third line did well on Thursday—will help rejuvenate the Bruins’ offense for Game 2 and likely the remainder of the series.

As far as possible line tweaks go, if something does change, it will likely be David Pastrnak coming off of Patrice Bergeron’s line. Toronto matched up against that line well, so much so that whatever chances Pastrnak did have came on the powerplay. The Bruins are at their best when Pasta is contributing to their 5v5 offense, and my guess is that we’ll see him on Krejci’s right on Saturday. In all likelihood, this will see Danton Heinen on Bergeron’s right, while Karson Kuhlman will join Coyle’s unit.

Don’t be surprised if David Backes slides into the lineup to bring some grit and toughness to the Bruins fourth unit, either.

Goaltending

Get real. There was nothing wrong with the goaltending. We’ve seen Tuukka stop a million breakaways as a Bruin, but you can’t give up 5 breakaways and expect him to stop them all. To his credit, he did stop a large number of high-quality chances, including a John Tavares (47 regular season goals, cute pajamas) breakaway, an Andreas Johnsson chance in a prime scoring area, and a few Auston Matthews chances that made every Bruins fan hold their breath.

 

As far as goaltending goes, Tuukka’s performance was no cause for concern. He’s a competitor, and losing at home will, in my opinion, only motivate him to come out and build on a solid Game 1 performance as the B’s try to turn things around.

Spin Zone

For Bruins’ fans looking for anything to feel good about, welcome to my Spin Zone. Quite simply, as far as bad results go, this one was about as well-timed as it gets. It’s much better for the Bruins to lay down a stinker in the first game of the series, as opposed to the sixth or seventh. This way, the Bruins can clearly see where they need to improve their game early on in the series and have enough time to turn things around and win. With how relaxed they looked last night, a win might have almost been worse, as it would have positively reinforced that the series would be easy… we know now that it absolutely will not be. What a blessing for the Bruins to be shown exactly what they need to improve on so early on as far as systems, strategy, and mentality. For that, we say, “Thank you, Toronto.”

(I’m reaching. I’m reaching so hard.)

The Boston Bruins lost a few games last spring to this Toronto Maples Leafs club, and if anyone needs a reminder of the outcome of that seven-game series, I suggest you take a gander at the Youtube video below.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

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Bruins vs. Maple Leafs Part 3: How These Two Combatants Are Different

( Photo Credit: JEFF CHEVRIER/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES )

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @lucaspearson_

Boston Bruins

In: Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, Joakim Nordstrom, Karson Kuhlman, Chris Wagner, Jaroslav Halak, Connor Clifton, Steven Kampfer, John Moore, Brandon Carlo (injury)

Out: Rick Nash, Adam Mcquaid, Tim Schaller, Tommy Wingles, Ryan Donato, Nick Holden, Brian Gionta, Anton Khudobin

Injuries: Sean Kuraly, Kevan Miller, John Moore

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Just looking at who the Bruins have added and subtracted from their roster since last season’s matchup, it’s clear that this is a better roster than last year. Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle have both been very solid pickups at the deadline. While they haven’t been lighting up the scoresheet, they have provided much-needed stability to the middle-six group of forwards both offensively and defensively. Neither has had incredible playoff success (Johansson with 30 points in 72 games and Coyle with 15 points in 44 games), but the experience is almost just as important as success in the playoffs.

One major addition (which isn’t technically an addition) is Brandon Carlo. Injured the last two post-seasons, this will actually be the first playoff action Carlo will play in his career. Last season, Charlie Mcavoy and Zdeno Chara shut down Auston Matthews, and the Leafs first line but other players like Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau were still able to have very successful series matched up against guys like Adam Mcquaid and Kevan Miller, who were better suited for a 3rd pairing role.

(Photo Credit: Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)

Karson Kuhlman and Connor Clifton have both had very successful rookie stints with Boston and will look to continue that in the playoffs. Kuhlman’s speed should fit well when playing against the high-flying Maple Leafs squad and Clifton’s physicality is a perfect fit for the playoffs. Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom have both been pleasant surprises and have improved the Bs’ depth considerably.

In all honesty, the Bruins didn’t lose too much. Rick Nash had just five points in 12 playoff games last season. Wagner and Nordstrom have filled the roles of Tim Schaller and the rest of the depth the Bruins lost admirably and with the depth at D, Mcquaid and Nick Holden won’t be missed too much.

Toronto Maple Leafs

In: John Tavares, Jake Muzzin, Trevor Moore, Frederic Gauthier, Michael Hutchinson, Tyler Ennis, Igor Ozhiganov

Out: Tyler Bozak, James Van Riemsdyk, Thomas Plekanec, Roman Polak, Leo Komarov, Dominic Moore

Injuries: None

John Tavares led the Maple Leafs with 47 goals this season.

(Photo Credit: BRIAN BABINEAU / NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)

So obviously the Maple Leafs won the John Tavares sweepstakes. With JT, Austin Matthews, and Nazim Kadri, the Leafs now boast arguably the best 1-2-3 center punch in the league. Along with improving their center core, the growth and success of the Leafs’ youth can really be seen as a major addition. The last series, we saw glimpses of the skill that youngsters Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen possess but throughout this regular season, they took major strides. They both had career years, boasting almost identical stat-lines with Johnsson notching 20 goals and 43 points in 73 games and Kapanen scoring 20 goals and 44 points.

Arguably more game-changing than the Tavares addition was the addition of Jake Muzzin. The Leafs traded for the former Kings defenseman at the end of January and has really solidified the Maple Leafs D-core. In 30 games in Toronto, Muzzin has scored five goals, adding 11 assists with a plus-11 rating.

Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Four

( Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images )

These additions didn’t come without a cost. The Leafs lost a lot of really good pieces that hurt their depth, but more importantly, it hurt their special teams. Losing guys like James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak has hurt their powerplay considerably. JVR’s 11 goals and 20 points, as well as Tyler Bozak’s 13 points, left considerable holes on their PP, dropping to 21.8% from their previous 25% success rate.

Along with that, the Leafs lost many of their best face-off men, which is crucial in the playoffs. Dominic Moore (54.3), Tyler Bozak (53.6) and Tomas Plekanec (57.9) all proved to be very valuable on the face-off dot and again will leave big shoes to fill. With this, the team’s penalty kill has also slipped from 81.4% to 79.9 and losing the veteran leadership from these guys, and Leo Komarov will certainly hurt come when they meet.

So have both teams improved since last year? Yea. Will the results change? Only time will tell. I still got Bruins in 7.

Interested in going to any Boston Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff games or the last regular season contests for the Providence Bruins? Take a look at the upcoming schedule and ticket availability from SeatGiant. Click the links below and use discount code BNGP to save a little cash!

—–> Click Here To Get Your Boston Bruins First Round Stanley Cup Playoff Tickets From The Great Folks at SeatGiant! <—-

—> Click Here To Get Your Providence Bruins Regular Season & Calder Cup Playoff Tickets From The Great Folks at SeatGiant! <—